CCChat-Magazine Cults-Coercion - Flipbook - Page 41
Dr. Janja Lalich
anja Lalich is Professor Emerita of Sociology and author of several books. She
has written and lectured extensively, has advised the international intelligence
community on extremism and indoctrination, and has served as consultant and
expert witness in civil and criminal cases.
"Those New Age self-help programmes, or even leadership training
programmes in the business world, are rampant with the same kind of
techniques that are used in cults"
M: What made you decide to go into this direction?
J: I was in a cult myself in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I was 30 years old when I joined, and I was in for
about ten and a half years. I already had my bachelor's degree. When I got out of the cult, after
a number of years, once I got my head screwed on right again, I went to grad school and got
my PhD and taught sociology at one of the California State Universities. I retired several years
ago. Even before I went to grad school, I had several books about cults and recovery published
and was giving talks and going to conferences. In the end, it's become my life's work trying to
basically educate the public about cults and the harm of these groups.
M: I recently watched the documentary Seduced about the NXIVM cult and you were one of the
experts featured. The part of Seduced that probably had the biggest impact on me was actually
something you said. It’s about 20 minutes in, in the first episode, and you said: “The practice of
EM’s, where they would have people think back to some traumatic experience in their life and
relive it, is very scary, because the people in leadership are not professional therapists.” That
really struck a chord with me, because this idea of opening up a traumatic event and going
really deeply into it, is something I see a lot of in the self- help arena.
J: Yes, absolutely. Those New Age self- help programmes, or even leadership training
programmes in the business world, are rampant with the same kind of techniques that are used
in cults, and one of them is getting people to open up, usually in front of many other people and
share very personal traumatic things. That's very dangerous and can have absolutely
devastating effects for the individual.
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